29 September, 2011

Thursday Brain Buffett: The Inheritors


My head was swimming with ideas when I rolled out of bed this morning, and I've been trying to keep a handle on them until I could sit down and get them all out. That happens sometimes. I normally try to compose this blog with a certain continuity with an echo of the long lost and rarely read essay.

This morning, though, I want to hit the highlights, keep it simple, and move on.

First of all, I want to thank Grindbone brother Kaplowitz (iamkap.blogspot.com) for bringing me onto the 2nd edition of his blogspot radio broadcast. Although the format is uber-brief, we kept it lively and hit a few high water marks. Among them:

  • I like offensive people – or, at any rate, smart people who try to offend either to educate or make fun of the unenlightened.
  • I would rather be a poor and despised writer than a desperate college instructor.
  • Writing cannot be taught, only encouraged.


It's on this last point that I want to riff first, just a bit.

To all my friends who are still ensconced in higher education, and particularly those who take on the largely thankless quest to teach First Year or Basic Writing:

I am not saying that you are, or that I was, irrelevant. So much of what writing teachers do on a daily basis ends up being a drawn out argument to justify their existence... which is part of the larger problem. A good teacher knows when to get out of the way and let the educational moment run on its own momentum; the bad ones think it somehow has something to do with them.

And since I have laboriously and copiously recorded my issues with higher education, I'll just say this: the problem with education at all levels is two-fold:

  1. There are too many fucking lackeys and weasels (Please consult your Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases, Desk Reference Edition) micro-managing the educational process, and they are being supported by myopic textbook publishers with a Wal-Mart mentality.
  2. The educational process in this country has been derailed by the profit motive – students being corralled into “careers” (aka turning them into trained monkeys who pay taxes so that our corporate overlords don't have to), public schools teaching testing instead of concepts and the foundations of critical thinking, and colleges and universities taking up the for-profit education model pioneered by the University of Phoenix.

The corporate influence on education in this country was unavoidable, however, since our corporate overlords have had their fingers in everything for a very long time. The mistake, often made by people who have been taught a sanitized view of history, is in believing, that the relatively recent incarnation of the multi-national corporation is the culprit.

They aren't. They're merely the inheritors.

Corporate influence on American life and politics reaches much further back. The 1920's, the Robber Barons, and the Wall Street Bankers that brought on the Great Depression? (Hmm....) Sure. But look farther. Post- World War 1 coal companies that used racism divide workers and keep unions from forming? Sure. Look back even further. Railroad Companies? Yep. Keep looking. Civil War munitions manufacturers? Yes. Slavery? Yes.



Get the point? I'm leaving out some important players in the leaching of America, but you're getting the point? I'd be willing to bet that since Adam Smith wrote his Capitalist Treaty, there's been some monger trying to get one over by exploiting the work done by other people.

And before you get all horrified, deified, homogenized, and needlessly terrified, let me point out that large scale Capitalism – the massing of capital by exploiting the labor and resources of others – is not the same thing as someone who owns and operates a business. Entrepreneurs succeed by their own sweat. Capitalists succeed on the sweat of others.

This brings me to recent events – the Occupy Wall Street Movement and it's various echo movements across the country. The problem I have is that I live so far off the beaten track that I have to rely on posted video clips and some eye witness accounts that may or may not be legitimate. Getting news online means dealing with spurious sources, trolls, moles, dunderheads, and those well-intended transmitters of information that get lost in the sea of bullshit.

Not surprisingly, the corporate owned media (Disney owns ABC, GE owns NBC, and CBS is a monster all its own. And don't forget News Corp and Viacom. For a list of who's feeding you your news, see this chart) isn't really covering the movement – and yes, I feel pretty confident in calling it that – even though there's clear evidence of something. But, here in the Big Empty, that grand land called the Midwest, it's easy to ignore the movements that may (or may not) help redefine the future.

All I do know is that from what I can tell, I like it.  
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